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Within three hours of having surgery in July to repair a torn labrum in his left hip Davis Love III was already back at work. Instead of perfecting a swing that has won 21 PGA Tour titles he was texting, talking, planning.
The two-time Ryder Cup captain spoke with Dr. Ara Suppiah, who would assist the U.S. team at this year’s matches, and went over details of an upcoming meeting. Love’s attention to detail and obsessiveness was unaffected by the procedure which would keep him off the golf course for nearly half the year.
Love would take a cup-half-full view of his surgery and the impending rehabilitation, using the extra free time to focus on the endless details that culminated at September’s matches.
“I think guys are tired of losing. They understand the commitment that Tiger [Woods], Phil [Mickelson], [Jordan] Spieth, Tom Lehman have made to this program, and they are ready to be a part of it,” Love said in January.
If America’s Ryder Cup fortunes had swung on the individual performances of its stars in recent years, this time it would take a village to end a winless streak in the matches that had stretched to three consecutive losses.
In 2015, Love estimated he spent as much time talking with his vice captains as he did his family. From the 2015 Ryder Cup task force was born a committee that includes three PGA of America officials, Love, Woods and Mickelson, but it turned into a much bigger job than even that group had anticipated.
Love and the other members of the committee tried to temper expectations, telling anyone who would listen that the changes made to the U.S. team process were focused on the future, not necessarily this year’s matches.
But if Love and his lieutenants clung to the company line, those outside the process were largely skeptical of the changes. Even those on the other side of the tee box found the entire situation curious.
“Definitely assembled the best task force ever, that's for sure,” Rory McIlroy cracked on the eve of the matches.
But this U.S. team was different, even the 11th-hour selection of Ryan Moore, who hadn’t even been fitted for his uniform prior to arriving at Hazeltine National, but embraced Love’s plan and the new process.
Hanging in the U.S. team room was a sign that read, “When you leave here: Don’t believe or fuel the hype. Support your teammates. Ignore the noise.”
The former directives were easy enough, with the U.S. team sweeping the Friday morning foursomes session on their way to a 5-3 Day 1 lead. Unlike in 2012 when the Europeans turned the tide with a late Saturday rally, the U.S. began Sunday’s singles with a 9 ½-to-6 ½ lead and all the momentum.
The latter, ignoring the noise, turned out to be difficult for everyone involved with crowds filling Hazeltine before dawn. The masses were treated to one of the most compelling matches in Ryder Cup history between Patrick Reed and McIlroy. The exchanges were epic and the leadoff singles match played holes 5-8 in a combined 9 under par.
After two years of change and plenty of attention to detail for Love, the noise following the U.S. team’s 17-11 victory was impossible to ignore.
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